Persona 4 Golden: The Hollow Forest

OK here’s something new. Let’s write a blog post about a part of a game I haven’t actually played yet!

I’ve been really focused on Persona 4 Golden since writing the November recap post. At the time I had about 70 hours into the game and estimated I’d be finished with it at around 100 hours and I hoped I could do that by the end of December. Since then (I actually wrote the post a few days before it published) I’ve been playing P4 whenever I had a free moment (thank you, Xbox Quick Resume) and thanks to a dreary, rainy weekend I’m already at 90 hours. I’ll definitely hit 100 hours well before the end of the month; however I’m no longer confident I will have finished the game by the 100 hour mark!

My next challenge is The Hollow Forest. I won’t spoil any story elements but this is a unique dungeon with some added challenges. (When P4 warned me that my choices would start having large consequences I started glancing at guides since I didn’t want to miss anything; I can’t see myself re-playing a 100+ hour game.) When you enter the Hollow Forest, all your gear is lost and you are given starter gear. While you can find better gear in chests to aid you, it remains to be seen how much better. I have pretty epic gear on most of my characters so losing access to it is going to hurt, and my physical attacks are going to be pretty weak.

But what is more concerning is that after every battle, your mana is reduced by half. This is huge. After just a couple of fights against trash mobs you’ll be basically out of mana and with physical attacks nerfed by losing your good gear, I am just really curious how this is going to go. Once again, there are items you can find that will restore mana that can help but still…after basically one-shotting enemies with powerful magic spells in the previous dungeon, this seems really scary.

I’m only on the 2nd level and look at my mana (bottom bar under character portraits)

A few other bits and bobs: you stumble into the Hollow Forest after a fairly long sequence of story events where there’s no opportunity to save, and once you get in there you can’t really leave. So if you are under-leveled I think you’d have a hard time. You CAN save in there but you can’t go back to earlier dungeons to level up. And you only have 1 (in-game) day to beat the dungeon. If you don’t beat it you won’t get to experience certain parts of the game. I’m not too worried about my levels. I have my party member social links maxxed out and my active party is all in the high 80s (99 is cap). If I need to draw on my second stringers, though, they’re much lower level and could struggle. Hopefully I won’t need them.

Anyway I arrived at this point pretty late in the evening and only did a couple of levels of the dungeon. So far the mobs aren’t too tough but the fights can take a while once your mana is gone which, of course, happens very quickly. I guess the trick is to avoid fights, open chests for better gear, and once you find a boss, warp out of the dungeon, get the fox to replenish your mana, then jump back in and do your best to avoid any fights until you find the boss again. The Invigorate skill which replenishes a bit of mana after every turn is going to be super useful, and if you have Rise leveled up and her Social Link maxed she has skills that will help, too. Thankfully I pushed hard to get her social link to max over the winter.

I initially considered just blowing off this dungeon since I’m kind of eager to move on to other games, but after sleeping on it, I’m kind of excited for this challenge.

Looking forward to seeing how it goes tonight!

I’m REALLY glad I finally made the effort to “get into” a Persona game for the first time. It did take a little while to get its hooks in me but now I am LOVING this game and I’m glad to know there are several others waiting to be played!

November 2023

It is time to bid a fond farewell to November. I LOVE November, it is one of my favorite months. The weather finally gets cooler, we eat lots of delicious things (left over Halloween candy, then baked goods and feasting for Thanksgiving), and along with that I get a 4 day break from work without using vacation time. In gaming terms some of the YouTubers I follow start doing these long videos on upcoming games for the next year or two, and I tend to enjoy those. All in all, just a fine month and I will miss it. I’m counting down the days to Nov 1, 2024!

On to the recap, which I could really just sum up as “more of the same.”

I’ve set a few games in my ‘rotation list’ aside so that I can maybe finish something. I’ve been leaning heavily into Persona 4 Golden this month, a game that first appeared in the recaps in August! I picked it out of my list because I’m playing it on Game Pass, which used to have Personas 3, 4 & 5 on it, but Persona 5 left the service so I was concerned that Persona 4 might as well, so I’d best finish it.

HowLongToBeat says the main story should take around 68 hours, story + extras should take 84 and completionists should be done with the game at around 136 hours. I’m at about 70 hours but don’t feel anywhere near finished. The story of the game follows our protagonist over the course of a year beginning in mid-April. I’m currently in October which makes me think I’m at the half-way point, though time kind of moves in fits and starts. I still don’t think it’ll take me 140 hours to complete since I’ve spent a considerable amount of time grinding and I’m currently somewhat ‘over-leveled’ for the content I’m doing, but it still may take me 100 hours. I would like to finish it before the end of the year but not sure I can squeeze in 30 hours in a month; at least not without abandoning other projects.

Another game from my rotation that I dabbled lightly with is Final Fantasy XVI. This one entered rotation in June and I don’t even like it very much. At this point I’ve turned the difficulty down to the easiest setting because I just want to follow the story, but even with that there are so many aspects of this game that just waste the player’s time that it grates on my nerves to play. So I pop in, do a side quest or a chunk of a main quest, then set it aside for another week. I’ll finish it eventually though!

The big disruption in my gaming life continues to be Snowrunner, which I started playing on a whim since it hit Playstation Plus Extra, and it has just stuck. In fact during Sony’s Black Friday sale I bought a bundle with the base game and 3 years worth of seasons (expansions). I’m closing in on 100 hours with the game and have primarily played on the 4 maps of the first region, and I now have in total something like 37 maps. That should last me a while.

Snowrunner is a hard game to describe. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say it is hard to describe what is enjoyable about it. The basic premise is that you’re hauling cargo from Point A to Point B, but always in places where the terrain is really rough. The first region is Michigan which has been devastated by a flood and you’re helping to rebuild the infrastructure. That’s the 10,000 foot view. But the minute to minute gameplay is mapping out a route that seems like it would be most efficient and then coaxing your trucks through mud and snow and over rocks, often by using a winch to pull yourself through tough spots. Trucks can tip over, which means driving out with another truck to do a rescue (again, using the winch). Cargo can spill, gas is a constant concern, as is wear and tear on the trucks themselves.

It is generally accepted to be a hard game, even on “Regular” mode (there is a “Hard” mode that I haven’t touched) and there are ways you can choose to make it more difficult for yourself. For example there is a “Recover” option that will teleport your truck to the nearest garage. You can use that if a truck tips, breaks down or runs out of fuel, but I try not to use it because to me this is one of those games where some of the most interesting things happen when trying to recover from a disaster. I guess kind of think of it like recovering from a party wipe in an MMO where you need to do corpse recovery to get your stuff back, and doing it without using fast travel. I read one review of Snowrunner that said it was a hard game but that it tests your patience rather than your skill, and I guess that is fair. Though there is definitely some skill involved, just in the sense of learning what a truck is capable of (each has its own strengths and weaknesses and there are a lot to unlock) and learning some tricks to keep yourself on the move.

Screenshots don’t really convey the pace of the game, so I’m sharing a couple of clips of me doing dumb things with bad results. In both these clips you’ll see I’m moving pretty slowly, and what you see are typical speeds in the game. These trucks do NOT do well at high speeds, if they can reach such speeds at all.

Anyway this is a recap, not a Snowrunner review, so I’ll leave it at that. If you decide to try it, know the first hours are pretty painful as you have crummy trucks and no upgrades and nothing to do but drive around. As you unlock stuff and get to where you can drive around in a truck with fat offroad tires that has a loading crane and can easily pull a big trailer, things get more fun and more interesting. Still, I would say it is an acquired taste, but you can try it for ‘free’ on Xbox Game Pass or Playstation Plus Extra. If you want to get a leg up, here’s a great YouTube playlist from zOrShix who is much better at the game than I am!

Over in VR land, PartPurple got hooked on PowerWash Simulator VR and now she’s got me into it. I have objectively better VR games I could be playing (Assassin’s Creed Nexus, for one) but she finished PWS VR so now I feel compelled to finish it as well! Family rivalry in action!


I feel like we’ve been all over the place this month. We went back and finished Invasion (thumbs up) and The Changeling (thumbs down) on Apple TV+ and now we’re into Monarch: Legacy of Monsters and For All Mankind Season 4. Both have been good so far.

On Amazon Prime we finished Wheel of Time Season 2, and we watched Upload Season 4 (I think?). We really love Upload and want to get everyone to give it a try. It’s about a young dude (Robbie Ammell) who is in an accident and about to die, and is uploaded into an exclusive but micro-transaction heavy virtual world by his control-freak (and very rich) girlfriend. It pokes a lot of fun at our current culture while telling an amusing story using characters that we’ve come to love. Hoping we get more of this.

On Netflix we watched Life on Our Planet which is a documentary about… you guessed it. Life on our planet, from the beginnings up to now. If you like nature documentaries you’ll probably enjoy this one. We did.

For my ‘me time’ viewing, I’m watching Attack on Titan (Crunchyroll) now that the series has come, or is about to come, to an end. I struggle with it a bit as it has a lot of that Shonen-style eye-bulging screaming going on. I hate that. Better was Blue Eye Samurai (Netflix) which was an anime-style show about a half-Western warrior in Edo Japan when xenophobia reigned. The warrior’s blue (and somewhat round) eyes mark them as a monster to many people they encounter. Really good show but it does have a lot of explicit violence and sex (though the sex serves the story and isn’t, y’know, ‘fan service’ stuff).


Virtually nothing. Duolingo Japanese study has taken the place of my reading lately. 60 days in, I can now say “rice and green tea, please” fluently in Japan. Another few months and maybe I’ll learn how to preface that with “May I have…” Crazy!

And that’s the recap! Lots going on in December. More games, the apparently now controversial The Game Awards, the winter holiday(s) of your choosing, and watching people who live in places where there are proper seasons having fun skating and skiing. See you next month!

October 2023

The end of October kind of snuck up on me and I haven’t been taking notes during the month, so I guess this is going to be a short recap. Particularly since things haven’t changed all that much since last month.

For the first half of October I stuck to my new “system” and kept playing the same 4 games I’d been playing in September:

  1. Starfield
  2. The Witcher 3
  3. Final Fantasy XVI
  4. Persona 4 Golden

But cracks started showing in my system because even though three of these are great games (sorry FF XVI, I’m just not that into you) I was still starting to get bored playing the same stuff for what was approaching 3 months at that point. I think I’ve learned that I need fewer games in my rotation so I actually make progress, or at least mix in a couple of shorter games.

Anyway for some reason about halfway through the month I started playing Snowrunner. This is a game I own on Xbox but when it hit Playstation Plus Extra I decided to do a fresh start. Turns out I like it more on Playstation for a strange reason: the speaker in the controller. In Snowrunner you drive around in beefy but not-very-elegant trucks and when the gears shift, you get a nice metallic clanking from the speaker in the controller. And since generally the controller is down below your head, it sounds right: it sounds like these clanks are coming from the transmission. I know I’m being really strange here but that was enough to make the game more enjoyable for me.

I’m super addicted to Snowrunner but it isn’t something I’d generally recommend as it can be very slow-moving. Once, I got a truck stuck in some water and it took me 2 nights of playing to retrieve it. The basic idea is you have to drive around in very rough terrain (in the starter areas there’s been a flood and you’re trying to help with recovery) doing tasks that earn you experience and cash that you use to upgrade your trucks in order to do more difficult tasks. I guess it falls into the ‘simulation game’ genre which generally isn’t well represented on consoles.

I of course forget to take screenshots but here’s a video clip. This isn’t actually typical gameplay. I was tasked with ‘rescuing’ the red truck but the mud was too deep for me to reach it AND get enough traction to tow it out. So I kind of did this daisy chain maneuver. If this looks fun you might like Snowrunner. If this looks tedious, well let’s just say that PartPurple sees me playing this game and just shakes her head sadly and tries to figure out what is wrong with me that I find this to be entertaining. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, I’m having fun. Also been doing a bit more VR gaming. Drums Rock on the PSVR got a little expansion pack of songs so I’ve been playing a bit of that, and dabbling in Asgard’s Wrath on PCVR. November is a big month for VR though. Looking forward to Power Wash Simulator in VR, as well as the VR Assassin’s Creed game.


We drifted away from both Invasion and The Changeling on Apple TV+, mostly because we ‘caught up’ on them both. We’re not great about watching shows week by week. We always switch to something where all the episodes are available.

The exception this month being Star Trek: The Lower Decks which continues to delight us. Thursday is the season finale though, and I’m sad about that.

We also watched both seasons of The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime. I’m sure fans of the books hate this show, because I am NOT a fan of the books and I kind of like the show. It isn’t my favorite but hey, one can’t be TOO picky about finding live action fantasy series these days.

For my late night solo viewing, I finally got around to 1923 (a Yellowstone prequel starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren — I watched on Paramount+) which was GREAT aside from having not one, not two, but THREE cliffhanger endings, and Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End (Crunchyroll), an anime about an elf who was part of a party who defeated the Big Bad but now faces life alone as her human companions grow old and die. It’s kind of melancholy but I’m finding it quite compelling. It’s still airing so not sure how it’ll turn out. Oh, and I also watched Summer Time Rendering (Hulu) which had both time travel and body snatching in it, so what’s not to like?


Not much reading going on. I’ve picked up Duolingo to try to learn a bit of Japanese and I’ve been focusing on that during the times I usually read. Like when Lola is laying in a sunny patch of grass and has decided we’re not going anywhere for a while. I’ve just hit the 30 day mark and boy can I ever ask for rice and water like a champ!

And that’s it. Here comes November and probably a lot more of the same!! ๐Ÿ™‚

A Snowrunner Disaster Story

So there I was, trying to lug a trailer up a steep trail, when I came upon a broke-down truck (Item #1 in the picture above) in the way. I don’t know who the fool was that abandoned this thing half-way up a steep trail like this (OK, it was me) but I couldn’t get around it.

I figured I could just tow it down the hill and that should be the end of the problem. So I attached a cable to it and started hauling with the winch. It took a bit of effort but the broke-down truck started to roll. I let off the winch but the beast kept rolling. I threw my truck into reverse but the trailer (Item #3) jammed on something and jack-knifed. The wreck kept rolling, hit me and drove me backwards. I tried to get out of the way but got wedged between the wreck and a tree. At least that stopped the wreck from rolling.

I couldn’t back out of the fix so figured maybe I could winch myself forward. Lashed the cable to a tree and started winching and… my truck flopped over on its side (Item #2) and the engine stalled (and with it, the winch gave out). I was dead in the water.

So I called a buddy from another map (OK it wasn’t actually a buddy, it was me… I can teleport y’know) to drive ALL the way over to the scene of the mess and start clearing it up. And I did, eventually. First I hauled the trailer off the trail, then pulled the wreck further down the hill (first being sure I was clear to back out of the way) then using the winch to get the first truck back on its wheels and from there we had it made. But it was a long, long night.

I love Snowrunner the most when everything goes terribly… ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh and sorry the picture is so dark. Everything bad seems to happen at night!

September 2023

September has been a pretty good month for me, once we got past the stupid heat of the first half. We’ve had days where we were able to keep the doors and windows open for a few hours in the mornings and evenings and having some fresh air has been lovely. October should be better. I love October and November.

Gaming wise, I kept to my plan of choosing a selection of games and sticking with them. I dabbled a bit outside of this group, mostly to earn Microsoft Rewards Points, but overall here’re the games I played in September:

  1. Starfield
  2. The Witcher 3
  3. Final Fantasy XVI
  4. Persona 4 Golden

The first two weeks of September were pretty much 100% devoted to Starfield which I almost instantly fell in love with. I racked up 25 hours in the first week (thanks in large part to the long Labor Day weekend) which, for me, is a huge number of hours to spend gaming in a single week. About mid-month it became clear that this was a game that I was going to stick with for the long term, so I started mixing in the other 3 titles.

Persona 4 Golden was in second place, I reckon. I don’t actually track my play time but I had a couple of weekend days that were 100% Persona so I assume it comes in second after Starfield. I think a Persona game finally got its hooks into me, though I have to admit I find the actual dungeon diving pretty dull (well, aside from discovering the truly bizarre enemies we have to fight). It’s the social stuff and story and I’m invested in.

The Witcher 3 continues to be a slow and enjoyable burn. I play it almost like it’s an MMO. There’s something about it that just feels comfy to me, even though old Geralt is slicing off heads and cutting foes in half. A lot of times when I play I just run around exploring. “Oh, I’ve never been to that section of the map….let’s run over there.” Over the years the devs have added a LOT of fast travel markers but I just trot past them. Heck I don’t even call Roach. I just love to stroll around killing monsters and bandits.

Final Fantasy XVI is in rotation but I still am not enjoying it that much. I’m not sure why I’m forcing myself to finish it. I guess because I bought it at full price. I keep thinking I should do a post about the things that bother me about it but then I think maybe there’s enough negativity on the Internet. Perhaps someday when I’m feeling cranky.


We’ve become big fans of Apple TV+ lately. Three of our shows this month have been on Apple TV+

Invasion season 2 is still airing. We’re liking it though we’re a little sad about how Aneesha’s character is written. She was so fierce in Season 1 and now she mostly yells “LUUUKKKEE” to her kid. And I don’t like her kid at all. But all the other threads keep us tuning in.

Foundation season 2 is over and I think we’ll do a 2nd watch; this is a dense show that rewards re-watching. Or at least season 1 did.ย  And we’ll watch anything with Jared Harris in it.

The Changling is a horror show that we’re still in the middle of. It has this way of being a little dull for like half the episode and then totally hooking me in the 2nd half, forcing me to come back for more.

From other services, we’ve been watching Star Trek: The Lower Decks which we just love. It’s on Paramount+

We’ve pretty much lost interest in the Disney+ shows, particularly since we’ll be cancelling soon due to the stupidly large price hike. But even before that happened we both just drifted away from Ahsoka and I can’t get too excited about any of the Marvel stuff anymore either. That’s OK… looking forward to having that $$ in my pocket instead of Disney’s.

I’ve also been solo watching some anime: The Faraway Paladin & Ascendency of a Bookworm. Neither was mind blowing but both were enjoyable with a minimum amount of screaming. I bounce off a lot of anime because of the constant screaming. Also worth noting that I know nothing about anime. I’ve been told all the screaming is a hallmark of ‘shonen’ but I dunno how to tell if something is shonen or not before I start watching. I need an anime sensei. ๐Ÿ™‚


Finished The Last Wish & started Sword of Destiny; a nice pairing with my time roaming around in The Witcher 3. ๐Ÿ™‚

And that’s September done. October should be great. The Quest 3 comes out and it just so happens (it was legit a coincidence) that I have a week’s vacation booked starting the Monday after launch. Also looking forward to Honkai Star Rail hitting the Playstation. Plus, y’know, spooky stuff all month! Woohoo!

Going Silent on Starfield For Now

Over the Labor Day weekend here in the States I played a LOT of Starfield, at least for me. I’ve got about 16 hours on my ‘main’ game and 4-5 on my “wander aimlessly” game, plus another couple hours in false starts that I abandoned. This is more gaming hours in a single weekend than I’ve spent in probably years. Suffice to say I am LOVING Starfield.

But soon the floodgates will open, while at the same time I’m going back to work and I’ll be back to maybe being able to sneak in an hour/day and I’m going to fall way behind the crowds in terms of progress. I’ve so far mostly avoided spoilers and I’d like to keep doing that as much as possible.

It has been a long time since I played a high-profile game this early. I don’t sign up for betas, generally don’t purchase Early Access games and tend to wait until a game has aged a bit before playing. So in this way Starfield has been unusual for me in terms of my current gaming habits.

Now back in the day I was ALWAYS there Day 1, sharing tips and opinions and really enjoying the dialogue around a new game.

What Starfield is teaching me is that I don’t really enjoy that dialogue anymore. I have, just a few times, gone in search of some info when I couldn’t figure something out (like the ship-building UI on console kind of breaks my brain) and what I’m seeing when I search for Starfield is a lot of fanboyism from both sides. Starfield is either the biggest piece of shit game ever made, or it is a game that will bring about world peace and cure all disease on earth. There is very little middle ground.

I find no value and no joy in that. I am tempted to correct the egregious mistakes but what a waste of me time, right? No one wants to be corrected on-line. Half the bad info is probably intentional. And don’t get me wrong, Starfield has some super clunky aspects and some really disappointing design decisions. But in spite of those I’m having a blast. Reading about everything that is wrong with the game isn’t going to increase my enjoyment, I don’t think.

So yeah, as of today I’m just going to go quiet and enjoy playing the game over here in my single player ‘gaming is my escapism’ cocoon. I guess I could keep writing about it, but that will take time away from playing — I wish I was playing right now as I watch the clock tick toward bedtime! And it isn’t like I’m going to change anyone’s mind or draw any revelatory conclusions that no one else has. Though I wish people would figure out you can fast travel from one planet to another so they’d stop bitching about “all the cut scenes” you have to sit through to travel. (Of course just as many complain that moving around the galaxy is much too easy and there is too much fast travel.)

If you decide to play I very much hope you get as much enjoyment from it as I have been getting! If I do run anything that really feels like a fun-killer, I will come back and post about it, but otherwise take my silence as a sign that I’m enjoying myself!

What Kind of Game is Starfield? [No Spoilers]

I am really enjoying Starfield, and so am in danger of getting overly apologetic about its flaws (and it certainly does have some) but I just wanted to try to clear up what seems to be some confusion around what it actually is.

BIG CAVEAT that I am still early in the game so maybe some things change eventually.

Anyway most of the negative reviews and comments I’ve seen really boil down to Starfield not being what that person wanted it to be. Things that Starfield is not: No Man’s Sky, Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen. It isn’t a space sim. In fact if you hate space sims you very well might still love Starfield.

Things Starfield is: Skyrim in Space.

Bethesda has given us ways to cut out a lot of space travel. While landed and sitting in your ship you can use the Star Map to pick a planet in another star system and just ‘jump’ (essentially, fast travel) straight to it. Then you can land straight-away. No actual flying involved.ย  Alternatively, you can take-off from the planet you are on (and yes, going from landed to space is a quick cut-scene, not an organic transition) then fly around above the planet you just came from, then plot a course to another star system, Grav Jump to it, then fly around there before landing. But that’s your choice. You’ll find random encounters and dogfights if you choose to do this. It’s up to you, which is always dangerous because gamers have a habit of optimizing gameplay for efficiency and then complaining about not being forced to do the stuff they opted to skip.

Frankly I WOULD like more space flight choices. There is no equivalent to No Man’s Sky’s “Pulse Drive” that lets you zoom between planets in a solar system, stopping anywhere. Practically speaking you’ll want to “Jump” between planets. In fact if your destination is on the far side of a planet you probably even want to use the Star Map and jump there. Space is really big in Starfield and conventional flight is pretty slow. I’d also love to use the Grav Jump from the cockpit view but so far I can’t (there seem to be options that are only unlocked once you learn a skill, liking using Thrusters to add Newtonian physics to dogfights). [UPDATE: I got this wrong. From in the cockpit if you target a destination you can then manually jump to it from the pilot’s seat, assuming the destination is within range of your Grav drive. You just manually shunt some power to the Grav drive and off you go.]

This is duplicated planet-side. Assuming you have a mission objective on a planet, you can pick it from the map and choose to land there. You’ll generally be pretty close to your destination. Then you go do whatever it is you need to do, which will probably involve a lot of fun pew-pewing. When you’ve completed your objective you can fast travel right back to your ship (as long as you aren’t over-encumbered). But you can also CHOOSE to walk back too. And along the way may you can gather some resources, scan some stuff, fight some alien beasties… and then you can keep walking PAST your ship out into the wilds and find abandoned bases full of loot and enemies. But you don’t have to do any of this. You can basically fast travel to the ship then fast travel to another solar system.

And as in any Bethesda game you can rush through it or you can stop to explore nooks and crannies and read log files and listen to audio files and soak in the lore. But you don’t have to.

Honestly aside from “Skyrim in Space” the best comparison I can think of based on what I’ve seen so far is The Outer Worlds, but of course without the wacky humor. Starfield is a space game the way The Outer Worlds is a space game. If you’re looking for a hardcore space simulator, yeah, you’re probably going to find Starfield lacking. But if you’re looking for a traditional Bethesda RPG that happens to take place in space (and with some neat additional features because this is 2023 and not 2015 — when BGS’s last game, Fallout 4 — released) then you’re probably going to have fun.

I’m actually playing on two different saves now.

Save 1 is Amos (based loosely on the Expanse character) who is an ex-Bouncer and a Neon City Street Rat. He doesn’t mess about much, has few qualms about shooting first and asking questions never, and in gaming terms, he is mainlining the main quests.

Save 2 is Tess, a former chef (!) whose still has parents to visit (this is a Trait and I’m not really sure what it means yet) and who is empathic. She is kind of a completionist and an ardent explorer (ie she can’t be bothered with the main story quest when there may be alien creatures to discover just over the next rise).

What’s neat is both of these play styles have been really fun so far (though I will soon be WAY behind everyone else because I’m splitting my time between the two). I’m in no hurry though as I figure Starfield is going to be on my system for a LONG while. Heck I still have Skyrim installed.

I’m really looking forward to how the game changes over time both via official patches and by mods.

Starfield Tips: Obvious Stuff I Missed at First [No Spoilers]

OK this is going to be SUPER basic stuff but in case anyone is interested; most of this I learned from playing through the first hour or so of Starfield twice. After my first session I re-thought my character’s background and traits so re-rolled and had to do redo the first mission. The 2nd time I went through it at a slower pace and noticed some things.

First is that some loot seems to be randomized. My first time through the first base you visit, I found a cool space suit with a chameleon property whereby if I stood still I’d turn invisible, Predator-style. I didn’t find this during my second trip through. It is POSSIBLE I just missed the safe it was in, but I felt like I was pretty thorough so I think loot is at least partially random. Heck unless it is somehow tied to your backstory/traits?! Oh, things like random books you can find and read seem to be different too.

Second, (some) computers can be accessed. I told you these were obvious things! There’s a lot of log files and backstory on them, and in some cases you can turn on/off devices via them. I skipped them all the first time and missed out on a lot of the creepy-cool things that’ve been going on in that base.

Third, these Slate things are audio logs. More delicious lore for you to enjoy. Another thing I just walked past my first time through:

Fourth, the lock-picking mini-game seems to be randomized, making scum-saving a little less productive. I Quick Saved before picking a lock and kind of blew it, so I reloaded and…the challenge was different. I’m going to assume that after not very long we’ll all be walking around with a few dozen digipicks so this won’t matter so much, but early on they seem a bit precious.

Fifth, there’s a Cargo Bay on your ship and a little locker behind the pilot’s seat and you can stash junk in both of those if, like me, you can’t resist picking up every little thing and soon find yourself encumbered! You can also stash stuff in crates and weapon racks. I don’t think you have any of these on your starter ship but soon enough you’ll no doubt have a bigger, better ship with these hidey-holes to stash gear in. Also remember you can’t fast travel to your ship once encumbered so be sure to dump off your stuff before you hit that point.

So those are just a couple of the things that tripped me up in what was basically the first hour or two of play. If I have any of it wrong, please leave a comment. Likewise if you have any tips leave those too, but only if they’re not spoilers!

[9/2/23 UPDATE:]

1) My pal Dusty Monk pointed out that your companions can be used to carry some of your loot when you get over-encumbered. If I remember right that’s been the case in earlier Bethesda games but I somehow forgot all about it. You talk to them and use Trade Gear I believe (I haven’t actually done this myself yet).

2) You can review the many tutorials the game throws at you early on but opening the system menu and accessing Help.

[9/3/23 UPDATE:]

1)ย  “Ship Parts” are a consumable item used to repair damage to your ship’s hull. In your early days of Starfield you probably won’t need them (ship combat is pretty easy early on) but if you’re as rabid a looter as I am, you’ll probably pick some up. Thing is, they’re pretty heavy AND they sort into the “AID” category of your inventory, along with med kits, eggs and beer. When you get encumbered you probably won’t think to check the AID category for heavy items since most of it weighs very little, but those ship parts may have accumulated in there and may be weighing you down.

2) Worth noting that if you select “ALL” in your inventory, you can then sort by weight with the heaviest stuff being at the top of the list. And tangentially related, you can sort weapons by ammo type they require. Starfield has at least a dozen ammo types (that’s all I’ve found so far) so this can be really handy when you’re putting together a load-out and don’t want to be carrying several guns that all draw from the same ammo pool.

3) When selling loot keep an eye on the vendor’s credit balance. If they run out of money the game will keep letting you sell stuff to them, and to be fair you will get a warning that you won’t get full value of the item. But what they mean by “not full value” is 0. The vendor keeps taking your stuff and giving you nothing. Just don’t be like me and assume, y’know, this item is worth 500 but the cheap vendor is only going to give you 400 because your Commerce skill isn’t high enough, or something. It’s a mistake you’ll only make once but… now you can just never make it! ๐Ÿ™‚

[9/5/23 UPDATE:]

One last tip. This applies at least to the Xbox version and it is related to a minor bug. You can own more than one ship in Starfield and your ‘active’ ship is chosen by marking it as your “Home” ship. In at least one case my “Home” ship was not on the launch pad where it was supposed to be and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to ‘summon’ it. Turns out this was a bug and your “Home” ship SHOULD be on the launch pad. The fix was to pick another ship as your “Home” ship, then switch it back to the ship that you really want to use. Toggling back and forth like that sorted things for me. Not sure if this bug happens on PC.

And speaking of Xbox vs PC, the game is cross-save, at least the Game Pass version (I can’t test the Steam version). I’m pretty sure when it comes time for me to seriously build/modify a ship I’ll do that on PC as I find the console ship building interface a bit cumbersome.

Oh and if you’re a crazy person like me and are playing through the game more than once at the same time, on the Load Save screen, you can filter by character name. The UI prompt for this is down at the bottom of the screen. The game creates a lot of auto saves, and an exit save, plus whatever manual saves you make, so filtering by character name is SUPER helpful.

August 2023

OMG you beautiful people, the hellscape which is August is OVER! Against all odds I have once again survived the heat of the North Carolina summer. Heck this year felt easy compared to other parts of the country. I think we maxed out at heat indexes around 105F or so which would’ve felt danged comfortable to the folks in Lawrence, KS who at one point ‘enjoyed’ a heat index of 133F. I can not even image what that feels like.

Forgive me, I’m old. Talking about the weather is about all I do these days. And when I say “talking” I really mean “bitching.”

Anyway, on to the recap, only 1 day early this month. I’m ditching the ‘last month/this month’ format. I’m generally pretty happy with this new ‘system’ of picking a handful of titles and sticking with them. My only real regret from this month is I’ve done so little VR gaming. A lot of that is just down to heat and humidity. I know it doesn’t make sense since I do my VR inside the air conditioned apartment but I still always somehow feel hot and strapping on the headset just doesn’t feel appealing. I’m also doing my VR workouts 4 times a week which, I fear, is conditioning my brain to try to avoid the thing because “visor = hard work and sweating.” I talked about this more in my VR workout post from the other day.

This month I’ve focused on five games:

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: I finally finished the Dawn of Ragnarรถk expansion which I quite enjoyed. In it you play as Havi/Odin rather than as Eivor and I kind of preferred him to Eivor. It was also pretty easy since I was over-powered for it. It meant I could just walk into a camp and take on all comers in a glorious whirlwind of arrows and axes. Once Dawn was completed I finished the final “farewell” quest wherein Eivor leaves her clan to go in search of new adventures. Which is a spoiler but not really since at the start of the game we’d found her grave in North America so we knew she’d eventually head that way.

The only major aspect of the game I haven’t completed is a rogue-like mode where you once again play Havi who is trying to rescue Baldr from Niflheim. I’m not generally a fan of rogue-likes though in this one you do get to carry forward some progression from run-to-run, which helps. But between being past the 200 hour mark on my save and the fact that the game (with all the DLCs) is a chonky 150 GBs (and my drive is rather full) I decided to bail on poor Baldr and move on. And while I still preferred AC: Odyssey to Valhalla, that 200+ hours doesn’t lie: I really enjoyed this game. And damn is it ever pretty.

If I really wanted to, I could stick around and chase achievements as there are still MANY things to do in the open world. Here’s a map that shows just a part of the base game and you can see all the white, yellow and blue dots that indicate treasures and artifacts that I never got around to collecting:

So many tasks left unfinished. If you tried to 100% this game I can see where it might make you a wee bit crazy.

After spending so much time with Eivor it was actually hard to click “uninstall.” I mean I could always reinstall it but it felt like saying goodbye to a friend. Yes, I’m weird.

Persona 4 Golden: Initially I started playing the console version of Persona 3, but then a remake/remaster was announced so I decided to wait for that, and switched to Persona 4 Golden. I just really wanted to finally make a serious attempt at a Persona game and it felt like something that I could play comfortably via Remote Play on the Steam Deck. It is early days yet… I’m under 10 hours and this is a long game. So far I’m liking it. I love the aesthetics and the music. There’re a lot of gameplay systems I’m still sussing out. So quietly optimistic about this one so far.

Redfall: When this came out it was so universally hated that I kind of had to play it (since it was on Game Pass). My inner contrarian was sure that the game must be better than folks said it was. I did wait until after their first big patch which I’m told increased the encounter rate, among other things. Given that the world can still feel kind of empty I can’t imagine how it felt BEFORE they tweaked that.

So I started playing and y’know, I was liking it OK. My plan was to just finish the main story and MAYBE to take one character to level cap. I was feeling pretty smug, given how clearly it seemed that my refined videogame palate that was letting me find the good bits that others missed. Then I kept playing and found myself liking it less and less, and the smugness faded pretty quick. I still don’t think it is awful but neither do I think it is good enough to keep playing, and I only got to level 10 (the cap is 40). I also didn’t spend $60 in it which probably softens my reaction to some extent.

The story is making so little an impression that I can’t even tell you what the plot is, but what finally got me to decide to pack it in is just how every fight kind of feels the same. I haven’t seen a new weapon in a while, just higher level models of the same handful I’ve had since early days. A lot of the character skills relate to multiplayer so it might be that playing in a group makes it all more fun but as a single player game, there’s just not much to hold me. I’m glad I tried it and if I didn’t have any other games to play I might keep playing but I have a lot of good and great games I want to get to. I can’t spare more time on what is, at best, an OK game.

The vampire plague seems to have been caused by technology rather than magic and here I think we’re supposed to be learning how but it is all so disjointed that I can’t follow it.

Final Fantasy XVI: To be blunt, I don’t understand the universal praise FF XVI is getting. I am not enjoying it all that much, which is odd because I played the demo and LOVED that to the point where I pre-ordered the whole game at full price, which is something I rarely do these days. What I’m finding is the full game is basically the demo recycled over and over. Fight some trash mobs then a mini-boss followed immediately by a Boss boss which will have several phases. There is very little exploration and the combat system, to me, doesn’t feel great. It is definitely a pretty game and the story is fine. I think I’d like it as a movie more than I do as a game. Side note: At one point I had to skip some cutscenes (the game has a habit of stringing together cutscenes without giving you a chance to save) which led me to seeing if I could find a YouTube video so I could watch what I missed. I found a video with all the cutscenes from the game and it is, get this, 20 hours long! That’s a lot of cutscenes.

One of my big gripes about the combat system is how hard it is to ‘read’ the fight since everything always looks like this. What is the enemy doing right now? I have no clue.

I could, and might, do a blog post about all the things that bug me about FFXVI [spoiler: a lot of it has to do with pacing] but for now I’ll just mark it as being something of a disappointment. I’m about half-way through it and decided to just flip the difficulty to “Story Mode” just so I can finish it as quickly as possible.

The Witcher 3: When we finally got around to watching The Witcher S3 on Netflix it got me in the mood to play the game again. I’m proud to say I did NOT start over but picked up where I last left off. I still am not as far as I’ve been in earlier (eventually abandoned) saves but I’m slowly making progress. There’re so many side quests and I KNOW I should ignore them and just follow the story line but…shiny lovely side quests! How can you resist them? Suffice to say I’m enjoying myself though I still don’t really understand “builds” in The Witcher 3. You have so many skill points but so few “slots” for skills. Fortunately not knowing how to build a powerful Geralt hasn’t really held me back. I guess thanks to being over-leveled due to those delicious side quests. ๐Ÿ™‚


The Witcher S3 which we enjoyed aside from the cliffhanger ending and knowing, what with strike and all, that it’ll probably be 2025 before we learn what happens next.

Secret Invasion was OK, but for me just OK. I found myself glad it was only 6 episodes. And yet they still managed to kill off a (somewhat minor) character that I liked.

Halt and Catch Fire is an old show on AMC+ that is about the start of the PC revolution. It ran for 4 seasons but by the middle of season 2 my interest was starting to wane.

Ahsoka is another one that, so far, I just find is “OK” though I think PartPurple likes it more than me. It’s early days so maybe it’ll ramp up but so far it kind of feels formulaic to me. And adult Ahsoka is so completely different from the young Ahsoka from the animated shows.

I guess we’re watching a lot of TV these days because I still haven’t listed Foundation or Invasion. Both of which we’re enjoying but in neither case do I feel like imploring you to watch. And with the writer’s strike still going on I’m leery about getting too invested in any show because it is really up in the air as to if or when anything is going to get a next season.


I finally finished Leviathon’s Fall and the Expanse series and I’m really glad I stuck with it. As a series it was definitely 5/5 stars even though a couple of the books as stand alones dropped to a 4. I kind of feel like The Expanse has ruined all other space-based sci fi for me now.

And that’s the recap. Next up, September and Starfield. I wasn’t honestly paying much attention to all the Starfield hype until just recently, and now I’m kind of excited for it. I’ll be able to start playing on Thursday evening since I sprang for the enhanced edition upgrade (which was around $35 if you’re a Game Pass subscriber).


VR Workouts, Month 4: Hitting the Wall

This was the first month I really struggled with my VR workouts, and in fact the first time I failed. But during this month I went from looking forward to putting on the Quest to dreading it. For most of the month I pushed myself to keep showing up 4 days a week but it was getting harder and harder. Now part of the reason is the weather. It has been so hot and humid that it just drains you. But that was just a small part of the issue.

Last Wednesday I was dreading the workout but I did it, sortof. I went through the motions but hardly got my heartrate up and barely broke a sweat. I just could not will my body to move fast enough. Several hours later I learned why when I started shaking and shivering and running a fever; I was getting sick. In fact I was sick enough that I took Thursday off which, I believe, is the first time I’ve taken a sick day since our company was bought 3 or 4 years ago. I know this because I had to ask what the procedure was for logging a sick day. My company has a procedure for everything!

Friday I was back at work but, frankly, phoning it in and just trying to get through the day. When it was time to workout I just couldn’t do it, so I skipped. (Thursday was a rest day anyway so no worries there.) I felt pretty guilty about it, but it also felt justified. Instead of working out I went to sleep.

Saturday is another rest day but today, Sunday, was not. I generally do my Sunday workout first thing in the morning to get it out of the way (which itself should’ve been a sign to me…I used to look forward to my workouts) but I didn’t. I was trying to convince myself that I was still recovering and needed more rest, but it wasn’t true. I’m like 90% well at this point.

So let’s leave me sitting there early Sunday afternoon arguing with myself, trying to convince myself to get off the couch, and back up a bit.

The other odd thing that happened this month is that I stopped playing VR games. I finished Walking Dead Saints & Sinners very late in July or very early in August and that was the last VR game I played. Once again part of the reason for this is the weather, but there was more to it than that. I had to sit and ponder what was going on.

And what was going on is I’d basically broken VR fun for myself. I went from playing games for exercise to using a dedicated exercise app (Supernatural) which I was still treating like a game. What I mean by that is I was striving to “beat it” in some way. I went from spending about 20 minutes/working in Supernatural doing Low intensity workouts to close to 40 minutes doing a mix of Low and Medium intensity. Why? Because if it was a game I’d need to get ‘better’ and get a better score and DEFINITELY get off “Easy” difficulty.

But in pushing myself I was making myself miserable. After a workout I would be so wrung out and spent. My body was definitely getting stronger and I was losing weight, which was good. But I totally lost the mental benefits. Early on I’d feel GREAT mentally a couple hours after a workout. Almost like I was high, but in a good way. That was gone. It was just being miserable and getting past being miserable and my brain started equated VR with being uncomfortable. On workout days I was MUCH too tired to play a game for fun and on rest days I didn’t want to get within 10 feet of a VR headset. And that made me really sad because I had been having SO MUCH FUN in VR.

OK back to earlier today. I was sitting there pondering all this and I don’t know if I came up with a solution but I at least came up with a plan to try. First, I cut my weekly Supernatural goals from 4 workouts/week to 3. The idea of that is just to give me some wiggle room without the guilt that comes with not making my goal.

Today I eventually put on the Quest 2 and instead of jumping into Supernatural I played some Beat Saber. That didn’t feel great because Supernatural’s “Flow” workouts are basically like Beat Saber. So I jumped over to Audio Trip which I haven’t played in months and guess what? I’ve actually gotten better at it, I guess because my body is in better physical shape. That was pretty fun, and it was also when I noted that I was starting to sweat. Then I booted up Pistol Whip and finished one of the campaigns including fighting a boss that had me ducking and twisting and dodging like mad, grinning the whole time.ย  During this time Meta Move popped up to say I’d met my goal for time spent moving, though I still had calories to burn.

But only THEN did I fire up Supernatural. My heart beat was already in the low 100s before I started (my resting heart rate is normally around 80). I did a couple of 8-ish minute Low difficulty sessions which got the heart rate up into goal zone and helped me hit my calories burned goal in Meta Move. I also feel like I did better with these sessions in terms of better form and better control. And it all felt good. I even danced a little. Thank goodness no one was watching.

Here I am, a couple hours later and I had some fun in VR, did my workout and hit my Meta Move goals, and I don’t feel like an old dish rag.ย  And mentally I’m “up” enough to write a blog post.

So my plan is to dial back the Supernatural stuff and mix in some active games.ย  Stop treating Supernatural as a game and honor the fact that I’m in my 60s and I might NEVER get to where I can do 40 minutes of Medium difficulty sessions and that’s OK.

My whole goal with starting these workouts was just to move. Both my mother and my grandmother (none of the men in my family tree lived long enough to hit this point) deteriorated a LOT when they got older because they stopped doing anything. They’d sit at home and watch TV, which frankly is what I do for a living. Yes it’s a computer screen and not a day time soap opera but in terms of activity it’s about the same. Both of them went downhill fast when their lifestyles changed like this. I don’t want to be like them. I want to stay active and be able to get around and be alert. So that’s why I started the workouts. Losing weight is a nice side effect and I wasn’t really aware of how good a proper amount of exercise would be for my mental state. That was a delightful discovery.

Bottom line, I’m not going for ripped abs. I’m going for mobility and mental health and I don’t need to keep pushing myself into longer, harder workouts to achieve those goals.

So, we’ll see how it goes.